Thursday, November 4, 2010

James Bond 007: Blood Stone ReviewJames Bond 007: Blood Stone Review

James Bond desperately needs an intervention, and I'm not just talking about his predilection for dry martinis, fast cars, and even faster women. Sure, those old habits all make a return in James Bond 007: Blood Stone, but the British super-spy's most troubling addiction in this third-person shooter is his cellphone. Though Bond's oh-so-trendy smartphone fills a number of roles in the game (including that of an actual phone!), the device mainly serves to facilitate developer Bizarre Creations' take on the "detective vision" from Batman: Arkham Asylum. Much like the Dark Knight's x-ray specs, 007's phone inexplicably allows you to spot objectives and enemies through walls, as well as listing the current alertness level and equipped weapons of any nearby goons. Digital Daniel Craig looks extra preposterous staring at his not-a-Blackberry as bullets whiz overhead, but because the benefits of the enhanced vision mode tend to outnumber the drawbacks, it becomes the sort of tool you begrudgingly abuse throughout the entire game.

Click the image above to check out all James Bond 007: Blood Stone screens.
When your screen's not awash with the smartphone's green, migraine-inducing pixellation filter, Blood Stone captures a lot of what makes the Bond film franchise so enjoyable in the first place. Once again, 007, with this week's interchangeable female companion in tow, embarks upon a globe-spanning mission to unravel a convoluted terrorist conspiracy -- orchestrated by your standard Bond villain with a sinister-looking facial scar, of course. Bizarre completes the checklist with loads of explosions, lengthy chase sequences, and a tied-to-a-chair interrogation scene or two.
That stuff's kind of a given, though. The part Blood Stone does better than previous Bond games is provide an insane gauntlet of action set-pieces that are absolutely worthy of the films that inspired them. One level, for instance, has you sprinting through a chemical weapons facility while the whole thing blows up around you. Another puts you behind the wheel of a large tow truck, careening through the crumbling streets of Bangkok in pursuit of an even bigger truck. Intense sequences like these put an exclamation point on the otherwise standard, cover-based shooting.
The gunplay itself feels fine enough, and the game's cover system is simple and effective. In addition to the Gears of War-inspired shooting, Bond has the ability to go in for a hand-to-hand kill at the press of a button. Not only are these brutal, close-quarters maneuvers fun to watch, but successful takedowns also reward you by charging up a special slow-mo, auto-targeted headshot -- encouraging a balance between stealth, melee, and gunfire.

Hope you guys enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vanquish Review

Sam Gideon is simply the coolest third-person shooter action hero on a modern HD console. Sure, Nathan Drake clambers up ruins and trains with expert skill and quips at the ready, and Marcus Fenix brutes and shoots his way through the Locust hordes. But neither of those fine fellows will kill an enemy with a lethal pirouette. Or slide across the floor like Tom Cruise from Risky Business while looking like Casshern. Nathan or Marcus typically take cover from a handful of bad guys against a conveniently located and sizable chunk of wall -- Sam can use even a tiny girder lying on the floor as cover against a screenful of incoming missiles. And take the time to coolly smoke a cigarette while under such heavy fire (which, as a gameplay element, is actually used to distract the enemy).

Click the image above to check out all Vanquish screens.
Sam is the cool cat that you control in Vanquish, the newest title from development studio Platinum Games (MadWorld, Bayonetta) and videogame director Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil 4, God Hand). I mention all the titles in the previous sentence because they all feature something that Vanquish maintains: a distinct and effortless sense of style. Its plot, like a guilty pleasure action-movie from the '80s, is serviceable and amusing, while not being too intrusive or indulgent -- an improvement over Bayonetta's long-winded nonsense that served as cut-scenes.
In the future, a splinter group of Russians take over a space station, use it to destroy San Francisco, and demand unconditional surrender from the US under threat of taking out New York in the same manner. Sam and his experimental ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit) power armor accompany a detachment of Marines led by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns on a mission to breach the space station and take it back from the Russians. The dialogue alternates between traditional plot delivery and amusing banter that seems to openly mock the gung-ho bro-tastic dialogue in similar games.